“Well, how are we all to-day?” he observed in his most animated manner to the guard. “All doing well?”
“Number Six complained of being ill, but I say it’s only the dumps. Number Fourteen’s been garrulous.”
“Garrulous, eh? Not a little flighty?” The guard nodded; Mr. Gillett whispered a few instructions, asked a number of other questions. Meanwhile the child had paused before one of the cells and, fascinated, was gazing within. What was it that held her? the pity of the spectacle? the terror of it? Her blue eyes continued to rest on the convict, a young fellow of no more than one-and-twenty, of magnificent proportions, but with face sodden and brutish. For his part he looked at her, open-mouthed, with an expression of stupid surprise at the sight of the figure so daintily and slenderly fashioned, at the tangles of bright golden hair that seemed to have imprisoned some of the sunshine from above.
“Well, I’m blowed!” he muttered hoarsely. “Where’d you come from? Looks like one o’ them bally Christmas dolls had dropped offen some counter in Fleet Street and got in here by mistake!”
A mist sprang to the blue eyes; she held her white, pretty fingers tight against her breast. “It must be terrible—here”—she said falteringly.
The convict laughed harshly. “Hell!” he said laconically.
The child trembled. “I’m sorry,” she managed to say.
The fierce dark eyes stared at her. “What for?”
“Because—you have to stay here—”
“Well, I’m—” But this time he apparently found no adequate adjective. “If this ain’t the rummiest Christmas doll!”
She put out her hand. “Here’s something for you, poor man,” she said, as steadily as she could. “It’s my King George gold piece, date 1762, and belonged to my father who wore it on his watch chain and who is dead. Perhaps they’ll let you buy something with it.”
He looked at the hand. “If she ain’t stickin’ out her duke to me, right through the bars. Blamed if she ain’t! Looks like a lily! A bally white lily!” he repeated wonderingly. “One of them kind we wonst run acrost when the Cap. turned us adrift on an island, jest to waller in green grass!”
“Don’t you want it?” said the child.
He extended a great, coarse hand hesitatingly, as if half-minded to and half-minded not to touch the white finger-tips.
“You ain’t afraid?”
The golden head shook ever so slightly; again the big hand went toward the small one, then suddenly dropped.
“Right this way m’lord—m’lady!” The face of the convict abruptly changed; fury, hatred, a blind instinct to kill were unmistakably revealed in his countenance as he heard the bland voice of the police agent. From the child’s hand the gold disk fell and rolled under the wooden slab that served as a couch in the cell.
“Jocelyn!” The expostulating tones of the governor’s wife preceded the approach of the party. “What are you doing, child, so near the bars?”